After a string of five bombings that have terrorized the Austin, Texas, area in March, authorities are working with a task force of more than 300 agents to try to apprehend whoever is responsible.
But, from the very first explosion on March 2, the bomber sent a very serious message.
“Let’s face it, he killed someone the very first time,” retired FBI agent and criminal profiler James R. Fitzgerald tells PEOPLE. “This guy sent his message from his very first bombing.”
Fitzgerald, the author of the memoir series A Journey to the Center of the Mind, helped break the case of the infamous Unabomber known as Ted Kaczynski – the serial bomber who was arrested in 1996 after killing three people and injuring 23 others with homemade bombs.
Unlike the Unabomber, who demanded to see his letters published in a national newspaper, Fitzgerald says he is surprised the Austin bomber has not reached out to the media – at least, not yet.
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“Most let the media know one way or the other why they’re doing what they’re doing. So far, this guy has been silent so he’s unusual in that way,” he says. “But it may just be a matter of time …. It won’t make sense to most people, but it’ll make sense to him.”
Law enforcement has been reluctant to describe the bomber as male, instead referring to the suspect in gender-neutral terms, but Fitzgerald says “every serial bomber in the U.S. to date has been a white male.”
The only thing officials know, at this point, are the facts of the previous explosions. On March 2, Anthony House, 39, was killed at his Austin residence when he picked up a package from his doorstep.
Ten days later on March 12, there were two similar package explosions – one killed 17-year-old teen Draylen Mason; and a separate explosion injured a 75-year-old woman.
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Since then, the bomber’s method has changed – on Sunday, two young men were injured after activating a trip wire; and another explosion occurred early Tuesday at a FedEx distribution center outside of San Antonio. During their investigation, authorities confirmed that explosion and a suspicious package found Tuesday afternoon at another FedEx office – which did not detonate – “are connected to the four previous package explosions,” according to a press release issued by federal and state agencies.
Then less than an hour after authorities connected the previous bombing and package, at 7:02 p.m. Austin Police and EMS responded to reports of an explosion at a Goodwill store on the southwest side of the city. In a tweet, Travis County’s EMS stated they transported a man in his 30s “with potentially serious, not expected to be life-threatening” injuries to a local hospital.
However, authorities said the latest incident does not appear to be connected.
“It was not a package bomb. An incendiary device was located, one injured. At this time, it does not appear to be related to the #packagebombmurders,” ATF said on Twitter.
Austin Police stated that the “items inside package was not a bomb, rather an incendiary device. At this time, we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs.”
All of the incidents have taken place on either side of Interstate-35, which connects the two major cities, but Fitzgerald says the first incident is usually the most relevant.
“The first crime scene of any serial offender – serial killer, serial rapist, or even a serial bank robber – is the one that usually has the most relevance to the bomber himself,” Fitzgerald says. “He’s familiar with Austin and may have lived in that area in the past.”
More than 500 federal agents, including investigators from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are helping local and state agencies comb through every clue connected to the case. They’ve even posted a $115,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the previous explosions.
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Fitzgerald says bombers tend to be intelligent introverts, whose anger and frustration has been building up for a few years.
“They enjoy the puzzle-building, if you will, of putting a device together and knowing that in a matter of time, the little pieces of metal and steel, glass, thumbtacks, roofing nails, whatever, are going to be used to rip flesh and kill their target,” he says. “The question is, why are they choosing these targets and where will they choose to go next.”